All Action, No Plot

Tottenham Hotspur - latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
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Fulham - Spurs Preview: Life Without Gareth Bale

Life without Gareth Bale? It began after 10 minutes last weekend, will continue today and, if scurrilous rumours are to be believed may even take on a more permanent edge, with Inter understandably keen to see “Year abroad” added to his already astonishing CV in the near future. Mercifully, this is one of the transfer window’s less likely rumours, but his absence nevertheless seems likely this afternoon. At one point last weekend we adapted to his absence by reverting to what looked like a 3-5-2, with Lennon wide left, Hutton wide right, and Pienaar, Modders and VDV central midfield, as ‘Arry crept ever closer to his goal of one day fielding a team of eleven outright attackers. The all-or-nothing nature of FA Cup fare gives him another chance to throw caution to the wind, and such is his all-action mentality that the day cannot be far off when he decides with 10 minutes remaining to haul off Gomes and replace him with Pav upfront.Initially however, a more familiar 4-4-1-1 is on the cards. The FA Cup is now our lowest priority, and although Fulham away hardly constitutes an easy afternoon’s work ‘Arry may be tempted to rest one or two of the key players, particularly with a league game in midweek. This may therefore be an opportunity for supporting cast members such as Kranjcar, Sandro and Pav to go scuttling around to no great effect for an hour or so, before Modders, VDV and Lennon are sent on to rescue the situation.

Once upon a time our heroes could not go five minutes without scoring from some angle or other, but the goals have dried up in recent weeks, and when they do arrive they tend to be from midfield. While a victory by any means would be welcomed, it would be encouraging to see the forwards click and goals flow, particularly against Premiership opposition. And then we up our bid, sign Andy Carroll and everyone lives happily ever after. Huzzah!

Newcastle 1- 1 Spurs: Testing Times at FC Hotspur

All in all this has been a bad few days for us fans of FC Hotspur of Tottenham, or whatever the inevitable spin-off movement will be called once our heroes have moved off to Stratford, or Geneva, or the moon. One point for our lot, but wins and goals galore for the other Top Four-ites (bar Man City, sunk by Darren Bent, most entertainingly) means that the 50th anniversary of the Double won’t end in a Disney-esque finale with Ledley emulating the great Danny Blanchflower, hoisted aloft team-mates’ shoulders, gleaming trophy in his mitts. Unless we win the Champions League I suppose. Wonderful though it was to see a late, late equaliser, once the roar of approval had died down it fairly swiftly became evident that one point was not enough from this sort of generic Away-To-Mid-Table-Side fixture. In fact, even three points would not really have been enough; what we need right now is a win so magnificent that the FA in their wisdom spontaneously award us ten points. Failing that, or the only marginally more plausible scenario of, say, a ten-game winning streak, I think it is safe to put the Title dream to bed, and those who fancy can now also officially enter Panic Mode with regard to qualification for next year’s Champions League.Close, But Cigars Conspicuously Absent

The Geordie mob’s current boss Alan Pardew (a former Spur, as you Intertoto Cup aficionados will recall) threw quite a few compliments in our direction post-match, sounding very much like one taken aback by quite how slick our passing and movement is these days. All very charming stuff, the sort of football a young lady would introduce to her parents without any qualms about ill behaviour, but when it come to the muckier business of getting down and dirty our heroes again fell short, leaving the frustrated grumbles about towering behemoth strikers to continue.

Back Problems: Not Uncommon

My lovely Nan, God bless her soul, was not Welsh, did not possess the lungs of a particularly energetic racehorse and in all probability was not left-footed, but one thing she did have in common with young Master Bale was a troublesome back. One fervently hopes that Bale’s affliction is a lot less severe than the osteoporosis that ultimately left her unable to master the right-foot-left-foot routine, but barely had the game begun before he was contorting his curious visage into all manner of winces and grimaces. Aside from the brow-furrowingly worrying longer-term implications, this also put to waste a jolly good plan to raid Newcastle down their right, where they were tucking in and keeping things narrow. Curses.

Elsewhere On The Pitch

On a brighter note, Steven Pienaar demonstrated that he has sneakily spent the last 18 months or so perusing the book of Lovely Little One-Touch Passes and Neat Triangles that has become essential reading for anyone wishing to join the technique-fest that is the Tottenham midfield. The chap had a relatively quiet debut, but he appears to have taken to the Tottenham way as if to the manor born. Next door to him Modders’ star shone brightly as ever, and Defoe’s pace and movement offered more threat than Crouch has in recent weeks, but he fairly promptly undid any good work by spurning our best chances.

There were however some jolly worrying signs at the back. Daws appeared strangely discombobulated by a fairly standard aerial bombardment, while Cudicini’s mishandling of the goal was the worst of a couple of errors, and Hutton got himself into a pickle that lasted from just about first whistle to last.

Mercifully, cometh the 90th minute, cometh the man. Aaron Lennon is turning the Crucial Late Goal into something of an art-from, if one can describe a blur of skippy tip-toes and frantic jazz-hands as “art”. No doubt that we deserved a point, but that is hardly the stuff of which a top four finish is made. Alas, with that Awesome Striker-shaped hole still very much evident in our line-up the odds are lengthening.

Newcastle - Spurs Preview: “When I watch them it’s as if they clean my eyes”

In a curious quirk of circumstance it transpired that neither I nor my avidly Spurs-supporting chum Ian could earlier this week recall, off the top of our heads, the identity of this weekend’s opponents. Such was the importance of last week’s game against Man Utd that everything thereafter paled into insignificance, at least temporarily. As it happens though the various statistical experts appointed at AANP Towers to research such things have assured me that we will gain precisely the same number of points for beating Newcastle tomorrow as we would have done for beating Man Utd last Sunday. Gosh. We might as well knuckle down and give them a good thrashing then, what?Quote Of The Week

It transpires that White Hart Lane boasts a most unlikely resident wordsmith, Heurelho Gomes this week opining of VDV, Modders, Bale etc:

 

 

“When I watch them it’s as if they clean my eyes”Most eloquently put. Much fun will be had by Modders and VDV negotiating their way around Barton and Nolan in midfield; should they emerge victorious then, one imagines, so will we.

Team News

Apparently our resident excitingly-coiffeured mentalist, BAE, might be out of this one, which raises the pertinent question of precisely who is our reserve left-back. Kaboul (if fit) seems a fairly versatile chap, but another train of thought is that a certain super-human young Welshman might be shunted back into defence, allowing Pienaar or perhaps even Kranjcar to slot into left midfield. I always rather enjoyed watching Bale push forward from left-back, largely because of the state of bewilderment it instils into opposing right-backs struggling to decide who they should mark and eventually fainting with the discombobulation of it all.

The presence of Daws at the back typically suggests that we won’t be conceding too many, so the art of three-pointery will depend largely upon the front-line. Each passing week enhances the possibility that this might be the last we see of Messrs Crouch or Keane, or Comrade Pav. I still yearn to see how Defoe and VDV would combine for a full 90 minutes, but this being an away day ‘Arry might opt for Gangly Incompetence over Vertically-Challenged Goalscorer. We shall see.

Spurs 0-0 Man Utd: A Delayed Match Report - And With Good Reason

Apologies for the delay –since the final whistle sounded on Sunday afternoon the denizens of AANP Towers have spent every waking minute traipsing the country searching for anyone – anyone – willing to buy Peter Crouch from us. It does not have to be the chairman of a football team. He could be bought by a British Basketball Association franchise, or shoved into a museum for small children to gawp at. In fact, since the finishing touches are being put to my latest abode, and I now scour the world’s furnishing shops for a tall lamp to stand next to the very sexy black glass shelving unit, I am considering pilfering Crouch myself and shoving him a corner with a candle in his ear. Admittedly it will not undo the entirely vacuous contribution he made against United, but it would probably ensure that ‘Arry buys the striker we’re crying out for, or at least that he next time picks Defoe, or Pav, or even Carlo blinking Cudicini in attack.I perhaps exaggerate the blighter’s ineptitude, but only marginally. The dust has been allowed to settle for several days, yet harking back to the match still fills me with mild apoplexy. If anyone on the pitch looked conspicuously short of Title-challenging quality, ‘twas he. Presumably included on the basis of his ability to tee things up for VDV he was exposed as woefully incapable of offering any sort of aerial challenge to the sinister Vidic, leaving me and several of those around me to wonder whether Defoe might have caused the United back-line more problems nearer ground-level. Crouch was also treated to possibly the clearest goalscoring opportunity of the match but, alas, used the moment to add to the ever-expanding body of evidence that he is anything but a natural goalscorer (or even, to quote the more acid-tongued, a natural footballer). According to the bespectacled, anorak-clad types at Opta Crouch’s pass completion rate was apparently 32%, suggesting an allergy to the ball rather than an ability to hold it up and link play. Damning stuff, when taken in its entirety.

Anyway, if Niall Quinn is wondering why he has had champagne and caviar delivered to him every evening, a gleaming new Lamborghini has turned up in his driveway and several bars of solid gold left on his doormat, all accompanied by notes reading, “With compliments, AANP”, it is because Sunderland are rumoured to have a passing interest in signing Crouch. Egads man, take him! Take him!

Elsewhere On The Pitch

Elsewhere we fared well enough, our heroes having the better of the game without ever really convincing anyone that a goal was imminent. There was imperious stuff from Modders and Daws, and adequate stuff from Sergeant Wilson; while BAE, fast making a career of flitting between sublime and ridiculous, opted for the former, shoving Nani into his rear pocket and keeping him there for the duration, presumably to the incredulity of Alan Hansen. One mildly disappointing aspect was that after the sending-off young Master Bale did not slowly turn to ad hoc right-back Darren Fletcher and give him the blood-curdling grin of a fully-blown psychotic type, before absolutely mutilating him. Fletcher got off rather lightly in those final 15 minutes, for no obvious reason, and a thigh-slappingly good opportunity to barge back into the title race – and, more pertinently, the top four – gently edged away.

Leaps and bounds no doubt, but the progress of the last couple of years is probably not such as to make us title-challengers yet. A couple of well-chosen signings ought to do the trick. On which note…

Pienaar

In all honesty he’s someone I know by hearsay and Match of the Day’s condensed highlights, rather than having scouted vigorously for the last few years. However, although not the rampaging striker for which we yearn, he seems a talented attacking sort, and can apparently play left, right or centre. Moreover, if his arrival shoves Jenas down the pecking order then I will happily lock myself away in a dark for several years while I grow my hair, before braiding it and tattooing “Pienaar 40” across my back. Bolstering the quality of playing personnel as we move into the second half of the season seems a noble practice, and increasing the competition for places ought to give a healthy edge to things. Finally, as a valedictory note I wish to applaud the young man for opting for Spurs over that odious bunch from West London. Bravo sir, may your stay be long and successful.

Spurs - Manchester United Preview: The Missing Scalp

Our heroes have made a pleasing habit of dispelling various hoodoos in recent months, and the latest to present itself is a ten-year drought against the eleven men of Manchester United and their various assistants in black. Over the last year or so we have torn apart some of the cream of Europe, with United’s the only scalp now missing, and while unbeaten our visitors have looked far from invincible to date this season.Traditionally we tend to use this opportunity to watch Giggs or Scholes run rings around us, but in terms of personnel we can fancy our chances of winning the midfield battle today, for VDV was born for precisely this sort of grand occasion, and Modders is in the form of his life. Moreover, aside from the glamour brought by these chaps, our cause has been bolstered no end by the return of Daws to defence in recent weeks. Was the ever a better set of reasons to rub one’s hands in gleeful anticipation?

‘Arry has been in bullish mood in the press conferences this week, but today’s teamsheet ought to give a clue as to quite how cavalier he intends to be this afternoon. Having stopped and started throughout the season so far Defoe is now back in contention, while Crouch for all his faults has turned into a regular manna-provider for VDV, so our glorious leader must decide between one or t’other. He might even, in the name of the most dreamy form of attacking kamikaze, pick both these two in attack, with VDV shoved into a midfield role somewhere, but one suspects that our approach will be a more conservative 4-4-1-1. The choice of central midfield partner for Modders will also give a hint of ‘Arry’s intentions, Sergeant Wilson representing the more cautious option, Jenas the more adventurous. L

Lose – or even draw – today and the semi-serious title chuntering will have to stop, but our heroes now tend to rise to these big occasions at the Lane.

Spurs 3-0 Charlton: Boxes Ticked

That was just about as straightforward as could have been hoped, just about every box ticked by 3.30pm. Key personnel rested; squad members got 90 minutes; home-grown youngster made Danny Rose-esque impact on debut (fingers crossed the next few months are a bit brighter for him than for the boy Rose); clean sheet; no injuries; no suspensions; opportunity for Defoe to return to sharpness; etc. The fact that we were forced to field Luka Modric for 45 minutes, rather than give him a complete rest, mercifully turned out to be fairly inconsequential.Modders, VDV, Hudd: Unlikely to be Losing Sleep

Admittedly this nice, neat box of all-round satisfaction was looking anything but after 45 minutes, in which Sergeant Wilson and Sandro were enlisted with the job of deputising for Modders and VDV in central midfield. One can only imagine the looks of horror on their faces when this task was put to them by ‘Arry prior to kick-off, not to mention the groans of despair from Kranjcar, Townsend, Defoe and Pav, each of whom would have been hoping for a slightly more creative platform in central midfield.

Bless them, Palacios and Sandro manfully attempted to fit their square pegs of destruction into the round holes of silky technique vacated by our regular central midfielders, but it was doomed to failure, particularly with Charlton adopting an understandable game-plan of defending deep. More used to slick one-touch triangles, the Lane faithful had to make do with Palacios’ laboured, telegraphed, multiple-touch passes six yards sideways. I like the chap’s attitude, and consider that his aggression still adds an important edge to the squad, but against a defensive lower-league opponent, this was anything but the stage for his talents. Sandro for his part stuck to safer ground and contented himself with picking up what is already becoming his obligatory yellow card.

So ‘Arry took the hint, replaced Palacios with Modders, and within a blink of an eye we were cutting Charlton to ribbons.

The Next Big Young Thing

The nation’s media are never slow to wallow in hyperbole, and Andros Townsend’s debut has consequently been feted a little too affectedly in some quarters, but even when moored safely to the steady surface of perspective this was a creditable performance. He sounds intriguingly like he could be the love-child of a Greek god and a faux-Irish wonky-nosed ITV commentator, but vastly more relevantly he showed the requisite pace and enthusiasm, and also managed to marry it to a degree of common-sense when weighing up his on-ball options. Nice goal too. With Aaron Lennon flitting between sublime and anonymous young Master Townsend may yet receive further opportunities, albeit from the substitutes’ bench.

Defoe: Sprightly

Here at AANP Towers we were also quietly thrilled to see Defoe doing what he does best. His flaws have been dwelt upon long and hard in various quarters, but having someone loitering around the squad whose sole joy in life seems to be derived from scoring is jolly well handy. Treasure the following ten words as they will never, ever be spoken again about Jermain Defoe, but there was something curiously George Best-esque about his first. Both goals, and the defending that accompanied them, were reminiscent of playground football, but no matter. Defoe is firing, and in effect his return for the latter half of the season is equivalent to a new and extremely signing.

It is worth reiterating: key personnel rested, squad members getting 90 minutes, no injuries, clean sheet and so on – everything panned out just tickety-boo. A slight shame, perhaps, that we were drawn away to a Premiership side next up, but that is for another time: this was a good afternoon’s work.

Spurs - Charlton Preview: Squad Player Bingo at the Lane

And now for something completely different. At third (and, later fourth) round stage the FA Cup hardly constitutes fixture congestion, so the question of where it stands in our list of priorities can probably be deferred to another day.Bingo cards out then, as we look to cross off the names of various squad members last season posing merrily in the club photocall back in August. Participation from Bentley seems unlikely, as a loan to Birmingham looms, while the current status of Robbie Keane is best summed up by a big fat question mark, but Cudicini, Corluka, Bassong, Sandro, Kranjcar and Pav are amongst the candidates for promotion. Crikey - as reserves go that particular mob are a jolly competent bunch, representing probably the strongest substitutes’ bench in the country. In theory then making half a dozen changes ought not to be catastrophically detrimental to our quality, but be warned all ye purveyors of complacency, for the memory still lingers a little painfully of our much-changed line-up putting in a blisteringly ordinary display at home to l’Arse in the Carling Cup a few months back.

Modders, VDV, Bale (and Hudd) – Can We Manage Without The Lot of Them?

A strong case could be made for excusing from duty Messrs Modders, VDV and Bale this weekend. Admittedly they all had a break before Christmas, when they picked up their wages for hurling snowballs rather than chasing footballs. Nevertheless, this is shaping up to be a long old season, and as well four games in the last couple of weeks, Bale has played just about every League and European match this season. The whippersnapper does appear darned well indefatigable, but it would be a slightly pointless experiment to grind game after game out of him, just in order to see how long it would be before he breaks down completely and turns to dust. Moreover, his back problem in midweek suggests a further reason to give him a breather.

VDV is a fragile little lamb, bless, who rarely completes 90 minutes at the best of times, Modders is another from whom we like to wring every last drop of energy during the League and European campaigns. Conclusion? Drop the lot of them.

However, while the medical arguments probably point towards resting these leading lights, I do fret that a midfield shorn of VDV and Modders, as well as Hudd, would be a few cans short of a six-pack when it comes to bossing, creating and generally playing that slick brand of attacking football to which we have become so accustomed over the last couple of seasons. Jenas and Sergeant Wilson between them do a decent job of slotting in alongside the regulars, but the prospect of these two and Sandro taking charge of affairs hardly leaves my gasping fro breath in excitement.

The Niko Kranjcar Fan Club

This could also be a big day for Niko Kranjcar, who effortlessly earned himself status as a firm favourite at AANP Towers last season, but who has been limited to a couple of completely impotent substitute appearances this season. Noises have been made at various points about him pootling off to pastures new, but his career in lilywhite is not necessarily irretrievable, for the efforts of Bale and Hutton over the last 12 months have illustrated that it is quite possible for a couple of strong cameos to earn a player a regular berth at Spurs, such are the vagaries of circumstance and fickleness of our glorious leader.

All things considered, our mob, reserves and all, ought to be strong enough for any time featuring an aged Gary Doherty. After the disappointment of midweek let’s just have a nice, serene injury/suspension-free cruise into the fourth round.

Everton 2-1 Spurs: “Don’t Panic” - The New “Audere Est Facere”

Hmmm. And flying forward in attack at every opportunity, in gung-ho and open manner, irrespective of who we were playing, where we playing and whether or not we were even in possession of the ball, had seemed like such a fool-proof plan. After all, if 2010 taught us anything it is surely that no matter how many we concede we will always score more? A plan of tactical genius, it could not possibly fail. Ever.Curses then upon those dastardly Everton rotters, who cunningly hit upon the idea of doing exactly the same thing to us, and making merry in the various yawning gaps we carelessly left strewn around Goodison Park.

Today’s Mantra

Still, Spurs fans the world over seem to have spent the day pointedly barking the mantra “No need to panic. You hear me? DON’T PANIC!” at anyone within earshot. We all seem to be agreed that there is no need to make wholesale personnel changes or sack anyone.  Actually, it appears that the instant reaction to defeat will be to sell Robbie Keane, but ‘unless ‘Arry is scarily impulsive I think it safe to assume that this is just circumstance. Perspective is being maintained. Give Gareth Bale a vigorous back-rub, maybe let a couple of them sit out the Cup game at the weekend and I suspect we will emerge from our 45-minute rut in tip-top form once more.

Nevertheless, having approached kick-off with the usual gleeful hand-rub of optimism this was mighty disappointing. The buoyancy of successive clean sheets was instantly destroyed as Gomes was caught staring in disbelief at Louis Saha’s quite astonishing hair, rather than focusing on the ball, during the opening exchanges. He can hardly be blamed, for everything about Saha’s mop defies the rules of normality, leaving him looking like someone has planted foliage atop his head, left it to wither and die and then produced some malevolent spell to turn it the most lurid orange.

However, there has not been any stage this season at which conceding a goal has been a cause for concern amongst our heroes, and sure enough we were level in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. Part Two of the plan duly followed, when one of our lot went off injured, but Part Three (Winning Goal) bafflingly failed to materialise, as the steam just seemed to drain from their legs, with composure following swiftly from their heads.

Cause For Cheer: VDV

As ever, VDV gave us plenty about which to smile, but watching him attempt overhead volleys from 30 yards got me chewing over a chicken-and-egg style quandary of what came first: the Dutchman’s insistence that he will only score if it is spectacular, or Pav’s insistence that he will only score if it is spectacular. VDV spent much of the game seeking out new and ever more acrobatic means of peppering Everton’s goal, but alas when a fairly straightforward - if rather sharp – chance fell his way, from short range in the second half, he could do no better than stab it straight at Tim Howard. Oh that the chance had instead been presented to him at shoulder height, when he had his back to goal, somewhere near the halfway line. His disallowed goal was also eye-catching (naturally), but alas, being neither a Man Utd player nor Thierry Henry the benefit of the doubt was not forthcoming.

Perhaps Not Such A Great Cause For Cheer: Crouch

Meanwhile Crouch worked diligently to make our heads explode with another quandary, as we tried to decide whether he should have all his pointy limbs hacked off, dumped in a sack with a slab of concrete and thrown out to sea, as his punishment for plumbing new depths of ineptitude; or whether he should be cherished and adored for the rather specific but nevertheless valuable talent of setting up VDV with uncanny regularity. It ain’t pretty (a comment that could comfortably apply to Crouch’s every movement, ever, but which in this instance applies in particular to the thrashing of the orb heavenwards for Crouch to do his thing and VDV then to do his thing) but it is darned effective.

So cherish and adore him we did, briefly. And yet only moments earlier, towering buffon that he can be, he still managed to demonstrate that knack of aiming a fairly straightforward headed chance anywhere but the goal, before hurtling into an offside position for that late first-half chance. After which he tried to kick himself, but missed. And then grinned about it.

Elsewhere On (And Off) The Pitch

The selection of Jenas over Sergeant Wilson took me by surprise, particularly away from home, when a modicum of restraint might have been deemed reasonable, but it is easy to suggest these things in hindsight. In truth, alas, Jenas’ was one of several fairly anonymous performances, the roll of dishonour also including Lennon, BAE and Kranjcar.

The frustration of the evening was compounded by the opportunity missed, due to points dropped by our cursed rivals, as well as the realisation that the draw against Chelski a couple of weeks back probably constitutes two points lost, rather than one gained. Curses and rude words for sure, but it is hardly a season-destroying result, for who amongst you doubts that our heroes will return in a blaze of attacking glory?

Everton - Spurs Preview: Time For Squad Rotation?

Around ten days ago I mused that I would have settled for eight points from our four Christmas-New Year games. Three games in and we already have nine, which means that the riotously good fun continues into 2011 – still not yet out of the title race, most definitely still in the Top Four race and looking down upon the rotters from Stamford Bridge, languishing beneath us. Glorious fun.Squad Rotation: Not Welcome At The Lane 

I do furrow my brow in contemplation of another possible side-effect, namely that playing the same blighters on a twice-weekly basis will imminently lead to the pinging of a hamstring, or some similarly vital body-part, of someone dashed important. I cannot remember the last time Bale was omitted, while Modders is another who seems to get 90 minutes every time. Admittedly it is not exactly a medical opinion, but I suspect that the practice of non-rotation might have been a contributory factor in Hutton’s injury last weekend, while there was a mild air of sluggishness about everyone in lilywhite during the Fulham win on Saturday.

However the rather compelling counter-argument to all this is that if the likes of Bale and Modric are fit we might as well reap the benefits. When key personnel do get injured/suspended (eg VDV, Hudd, Defoe, the massed ranks of centre-backs) the other chaps simply roll up their sleeves and cope, and moreover, there might be a mini-riot in the Park Lane if Bale were left out one week. ‘Arry seems to have stumbled upon the occasional right call during his time at the helm, so perhaps it would be best if I piped down at this point and left him to get on with things.

Team News 

Flabbergastingly enough we have a jolly good chance to record a third consecutive clean-sheet. While one must never discount the possibility that Gomes will briefly and without any warning completely lose the plot and go rugby-tackling the nearest opponent in the penalty area, the return of the marvellous Daws has stiffened up things no end at the back. On top of this Everton’s strikers are currently being investigated under the Trade Descriptions Act, and my Fantasy League dealings have alerted me to the fact that their principal goalscoring threat, Tim Cahill, is so embarrassed about his countrymen’s surrender of the Ashes that he has scarpered the country under the spurious claim of playing in something called the Asian Cup.

Everton away is traditionally a tricky one, but they appear to be having a rough time of things this season so presumably we will adopt our usual cagey away mentality and go all guns blazing for another three points.

Spurs 1-0 Fulham: That Old Cliche, & The Beckham Verdict

Blinking heck, that was dashed hard work – to which end our vanquished opponents deserve credit, while we can also direct sneers of ill-disguised derision at those fools who suggested beforehand that while there is no such thing as an easy game in the Premiership, if there were then Fulham at home would probably be it. Ahem.That Old Chestnut

In recent weeks I fear that I have begun sounding like a broken record, with tales of impeccable technique and pretty triangles, but this was a performance cut from different cloth, our heroes emerging with bruised shins and dirt beneath the fingernails. While we would all prefer a champagne football performance, such gritty wins as this, with players flinging themselves at full-length to block opposition shots as the clock ticks down, are a necessary evil as we trundle towards a Top Four berth. Observers across the nation have wasted little time in trotting out that predictable line about winning while playing poorly being the sign of a title-winning team, although we would probably be getting a little ahead of ourselves if we began indulging in such maxims just yet.

Opportunity Knocks

The medical boffins at AANP Towers are working around the clock to diagnose Alan Hutton’s untimely malady, but his departure signalled the return to the fold of Vedran Corluka. Hutton strikes me as the type who would react to bad news by smashing a whisky bottle over the head of the messenger, so I rather hope he is not perusing these pages, but history under ‘Arry suggests that once one man departs the starting XI his replacement wastes little time in leaping into the vacant spot and in the process just about removing from history any trace of the existence of his predecessor. It is a ruthlessness to which Messrs Bentley, Kranjcar, Keane and indeed Corluka himself can attest, so should Hutton’s injury prove lengthy he may struggle to return to the team. But I darned well won’t be the one to break the new to the Scot.

Admittedly I am not the biggest fan of the lumbering Croat (as previously expounded, my personal preference at right-back would be Younes Kaboul), but given the circumstances Corluka’s strength and positioning nous proved mightily useful in helping to stiffen up things at the back. Moreover, we were also treated to a couple of those sumptuous little diagonal passes inside the full-back for Lennon to run onto, passes so beautifully weighted they were worthy of Modders or VDV. A vastly different proposition from Hutton, but Corluka certainly has his uses.

Lennon’s Final Ball

There are few more exhilarating sights in Christendom than seeing Aaron Lennon go flying over halfway in a blur of legs, leading a Tottenham counter-attack, but when he had the chance to settle the nerves and score a second he chose the wrong option this afternoon. Indeed, in the first half too he picked the wrong option when free in the penalty area with time to pick out a lilywhite chum.

Beckham: The AANP Verdict

C’est la vie, but some have suggested that this distributory aspect of Lennon’s game might benefit from the wisdom that might be imparted by a certain D. Beckham Esquire. AANP is not in the habit of passing comment on speculation, but as this whisper is fast snowballing towards fact it probably merits half a moment’s thought. In a nutshell I like the idea, primarily for what might be termed the Eidur Gudjohnsen Effect.

Brought in on loan last January, Gudjohnsen made the occasional, pretty handy, contribution on the pitch, notably in retaining possession when leads needed protecting. Perhaps just as importantly however he also added experience to the side as we closed in on a first Top Four finish. If Beckham can add this, plus the fabled off-pitch contributions on the training ground and the like, he would be a worthy addition. Not sure about him as a like-for-like right-wing understudy for Lennon – it would make more sense to deploy him as a possession-cherishing centre-midfielder, in the Huddlestone mould – but whatever the minutiae, the idea appeals.

Satisfactory Stuff

A slight shame that all the other title-chasers won, but three wins in a week is cracking stuff. Having ploughed through the previous two games with ten men it is understandable that our heroes were not at their slick best, and given these circumstances grinding out yet another win is most satisfactory.

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